New Malden’s Tom Onslow-Cole can no longer describe himself as a touring cars rookie or a young pretender, or wet behind the ears.
He is a seasoned pro and history says it is seasoned pros that prevail in the British Touring Car Championships – just look at two-time champion and regular frontrunner 44-year-old Jason Plato and defending champion Matt Neal, 45.
The 24-year-old starts his fifth full season in the UK’s premier domestic motor racing series - having joined the 2009 campaign midway through - and is back with the team where it all began in 2007.
Onslow-Cole started his career in a Team RAC BMW 320i, run by West Surrey Racing and is back with the Sunbury-based outfit under a new title sponsor eBay Motors.
Since making his debut for WSR the former Brooklands College student has driven for Vauxhall’s VXRacing, Team Aon and AmD Milltek Racing.
In 2010 – with Team Aon – he was in with a chance of winning the crown on the final race weekend at Brands Hatch, but retirements in each of the final three races saw him finish the season fourth in the rankings.
He returns to a team that won the drivers’ and team championships in 2009, and, with seven race wins and a total of 26 podium finishes to his name, he returns with expectations high.
“I wouldn’t say there is any added pressure. Being in a team like this is what you want. It is where you want to be,” he said at Silverstone this week.
“You want to be at the front and fighting.
“I feel excited, but a little underprepared. We haven’t had as much testing time as we would have liked, but then again you always want more.
“There is not much development to do because the car is five years old, but it is a case of how quickly we adapt to the new rules.
“We have got an old-spec car with a new-spec engine. I think that on any given day with the same equipment, same tyres, same fuel, and same turbo boosts, we have a winning car.”
First on the calendar is Brands Hatch on April 1 – where he has one race win – and Onslow-Cole expects to start the season in style, depending on what the other teams bring to the party.
“When I was driving the car in 2007 there were tracks that were branded BMW tracks and ones that weren’t,” he added.
“In recent years they have got the car performing everywhere and at Brands Hatch we expect to have good pace.
“But then there is the mystery of what everyone else has done. We know we have done the best we can with everything we’ve got, but until Brands you don’t really know how you are going to go.
“Even here at the media day people might be running under weight to get that extra bit of pace in an attempt to attract sponsors.”